(01-Jul) -- On a night which will mostly be remembered for a home-country world record in the 400 meter hurdles by Karsten Warholm (46.70), the distance athletes also put on a great show at the 55th Bislett Games in Oslo, the fourth stop of the 2021 Wanda Diamond League.
IMAGE: Stewy McSweyn of Australia winning the Svein Arne Hansen Dream Mile at the 2021 Bislett Games (image via Peacock TV)
The tall and lanky Ethiopian Yomif Kejelcha got the action started in the men's 3000m. Running for his new sponsor adidas, Kejelcha was comfortable with the early 61-second laps behind Kenyan pacemaker Vincent Kibet. After 2000 meters was reached in 5:02.37, Kejelcha took over at the front, dropping the pace to 58.4 seconds for the next two laps. Kenya's Nicholas Kimeli was able to stay close, while his compatriot Jacob Krop was a few steps back.
On the final circuit, Kejelcha powered away from his closest challengers then sprinted hard in the homestretch to finish in a meeting record 7:26.25, the 12th-fastest mark in history. His mark was also a Diamond League record and a 2021 world leader.
"I am working hard for the Olympics but it will be very difficult as there is a lot of competition," said Kejelcha who finished second in the 10,000m at the Ethiopian Olympic Trials in Hengelo on June 8, and who will compete in that discipline at the Tokyo Olympics. "I have no more competitions now before Tokyo so I will just train hard."
Krop narrowly got second in 7:30.07 over Kimeli (7:31.33), and both men set personal bests. Indeed, the first eight men all set career best times, including home country runner Filip Ingebrigtsen who finished fifth in 7:34.00.
In the women's 5000m, Kenya's Helen Obiri ran a superb final kilometer in 2:45.95 to win in 14:26.38. The two-time world 5000m champion held off Ethiopia's Fantu Worku in the final sprint for home. Fantu ran a personal best 14:26.80, followed by Kenya's Margaret Kipkemboi who had shared the lead with Obiri for much of the race.
"I still have a lot of work to do before the Olympics especially as I am doubling up there," said Obiri who will run both the 5000m and the 10,000m in Tokyo. "I have a lot of speed work to do between now and then. I have worked hard on my endurance and now I need to concentrate on the last 300m."
In fourth place Scotswoman Eilish McColgan broke Paula Radcliffe's British record of 14:29.11 set in 2004 in Bydgoszcz, Poland. McColgan, whose mother Liz ran 14:59.56 during her career, clocked 14:28.55 and was delighted with her performance.
"I couldn’t be happier with that British record," she said. "The last kilometer was fast out there, but it brought out the competitiveness in me. It really has been a long time coming. My race times haven't reflected my training which has been going really well."
Home country runner Karoline Bjerkeli Grøvdal finished eighth in 14:47.67, a personal best.
American Kate Grace won the women's 800m going away with a powerful long sprint from 150 meters out. Grace, a 2016 Olympic finalist, lowered her career best time by about a second to 1:57.60. Just four days ago she placed a disappointing seventh at the USA Olympic Team Trials - Track & Field in Eugene, Oregon, and has had to redefine her goals for 2021 since she won't be in Tokyo.
"I really wasn't sure what to expect tonight so to get such a huge PB I am really happy," Grace said after tonight's race. "I only flew here two days ago after three big races at the U.S. Trials and the big disappointment of not making the team."
In the final distance race of the evening, the Svein Arne Hansen Dream Mile, Australia's Stewy McSweyn ran a dominant final quarter to win in a national record 3:48.37, the fastest outdoor time since 2014. Marcin Lewandowski set a Polish record of 3:49.11 in second place, and Australia's Jye Edwards came from the chase pack to finish third in 3:49.27, a personal best. Kenya's Charles Simotwo was fourth and the final man to slip under 3:50 tonight (3:49.40).
"I am very happy tonight," said McSweyn who will run the 1500m in Tokyo. "My season is going in the right direction going into the Olympics. I want to try an stay healthy going into Tokyo. I still have a few things to work on."
The Bislett Games was not held in 2020 due to the pandemic, but the tiny Impossible Games" was held in its place, an exhibition event. tonight's meeting had live spectators, and the crowd was enthusiastic.
The Wanda Diamond League continues on Sunday in Stockholm at the Bauhaus Galan.